Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

Bee Blues

It's a depressing day for me.  I don't know where to begin?  Should I mention that I was in the ER until the wee hours of the morning with my son who has an ear infection, or the fact that Jon is in Seattle for a conference and left me in charge of holding down the fort?  I am physically and emotionally drained but decide to conduct hive checks today because the weather is warm and sunny and I haven't seen any bees out flying the past few weeks.  Even in the winter, bees must go outside the hive because they have to relieve themselves; these are called "cleansing flights."

I hefted the hives a few days ago and couldn't tell if they were light or heavy, because after all, this is my first year keeping bees.  The weight of the hives should give you some indication about how much honey is in the hives.  So, I get all suited up and collect my extra frames of honey that the bees produced in excess last summer that I stored for the coming spring.  I plan to add the extra frames to ensure they have enough food until the fruit blossoms come.  I wedge my hive tool between the cover board and the first box.  The box snaps and creaks from the hardened propolis.  I look inside and find plenty of honey stores but no bees.  I repeat this procedure with the second hive and get the same results.  My shoulders slump and I unzip the head netting from my suit.  I immediately thought about the cold snap in early January when we had temperatures below freezing with strong East winds for almost a solid week.  Towards the end of that "snap," Jon mentioned that we should have put up a wind break for the hives to protect them from the cold strong wind.  I nodded in approval.  That must have been the demise of the bees because there was plenty of food inside each hive and I couldn't find any sign of disease.  In one hive I found a closely knit cluster of dead bees with no honey stores in their vicinity.  I shook off the top bees in this cluster to find the butts of bees sticking out of the honeycomb. These poor bees were at the bottom of their barrels getting every remaining drop of honey.  I remember reading in bee books that bees will starve within inches of food if the hive gets cold enough and the bees can't move.

For several weeks I have been worried that Jon had portended correctly about the lack of a windbreak, so I would try and hear if there were bees inside by suctioning my ear to one of the boxes and listen for the faint hum coming from within the hive.  For 2 weeks I swear I have been hearing that hum and imagining a little cluster of bees keeping each other warm and gorging on the fruits of their labor!  I have been mistaking what I was hearing all along.  I felt duped like I was listening to the ocean through a conch!  It's a bit depressing to lose my beehives before I could experience the full lifecycle of a colony of bees.  I will not give up though and must forge ahead to this new season coming up!  I will continue to network with other bee folks and hopefully catch a swarm this spring!

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About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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